Anxiety affects all of us. It’s a normal reaction triggered by fear or stress yet can feel so isolating at times. When faced with stressful situations like giving a speech or walking into an interview, anxiety is the name behind the feeling of dread and uneasiness you may find within yourself. When our anxiety leads to excessive worrying and avoidance behaviors that allow our distress to take center stage within our minds and our lives, it's best to acknowledge rather than appease our anxious thoughts. When we acknowledge our anxious thoughts, we are becoming conscious of our thought patterns limiting the control our distress holds on us. Without acknowledgement our worries can become overwhelming and loom larger as the pattern of uneasy thoughts loop through a never-ending process, all to convince us that the anxiety is warranted.
This voice inside can lead to self-doubt, trouble perceiving interactions with others, and can limit our ability to show up authentically in our daily lives. There are many types of anxiety, and it affects everyone differently. Elsa, from Disney’s Frozen movies is one example of the trials we may subject ourselves to by letting our inner anxiety overcome us and what can happen when we allow our anxiety to overcome our thoughts, but also the power we can receive when we take steps to manage and deescalate our thoughts. Elsa shows us that while letting our anxiety hold so much power over our thought, choices, and actions can affect our loved ones; ultimately we are the ones who stand the most to lose. Let’s see how Elsa can help us manage our own inner anxiety.
Monitor Your Own Overthinking
In Disney’s Frozen, Elsa is seen with magical powers that are not understood by the town she resides in. As her parents rush to control this power and request she hide it, in fear of what others may think; she is shown using her powers in secret to play with her younger sister. When she strikes her sister accidentally with her powers, she is overcome with fear and begins to associate her powers and herself as a danger to those around her. Locking herself away for years as a result. Elsa fears she will not be accepted by her sister or her town. This feeling worsens as her parents pass away.
Now with no one having knowledge of her powers the pressure increases for her to stay hidden. As she becomes required to attend her coronation, she begins overthinking how she will keep her powers hidden. She resorts to her special gloves, but interactions with her sister throughout the night make one of her gloves come off. Anxiety comes in hand with overthinking stemming from one’s own self-esteem and self-doubt. As an overthinker you are creating multiple scenarios to know how to react if something does not go according to plan. So, when her glove comes off this is the worst-case scenario - and her brain sends her into fight or flight mode. She chooses to fight for her glove, resulting in a heightened level of anger or an overreaction to the situation. The fear of her town finding out about her, triggers her fears and her power becomes engaged, and she freezes the fountain. Now the unthinkable has occurred and she resorts to flight and takes off into the mountains.
Let It Go
It is in the mountains when she feels confident enough to show herself, and dare we say it, is able to “let it go”. If you think of the lyrics to Elsa’s song, “the fears that once controlled [her] can’t get to [her] at all.” Only when she is alone does she feel she can fully accept herself. Many people struggle with this when managing their anxiety, as it can be so much easier to have confidence when you know no one is watching you. But as you learn and practice managing your anxiety; you want to allow that same confidence to shine through when you are around others as when you are alone. While Else can relate to the temptation to hide ourselves from the world she shows us the beauty in letting go of our anxiety.
Creating Comfort for Yourself
When Elsa runs into the mountains without realizing it, she creates Olaf. Olaf is a snowman that herself and her sister Anna would make as kids when they used her powers to play. Subconsciously, Olaf brings comfort to Elsa. Many people that struggle with anxiety rewatch movies or listen to songs on repeat because knowing the words or the outcome is comforting. Our brain feels more at ease when we feel comforted because it is not scrabbling to make plans if something were to go wrong, knowing the outcome allows us a sense of safety and reassurance.
Managed But Never Gone
As the movie progresses towards its end, Elsa is left feeling accepted by her sister, the friends they made, Olaf, and her town. Those that portrayed her as anything else were exiled from Arendelle, and all is now good in the world. She can focus on her relationship with Anna and the additions to their family. She feels comforted by this for some time.
Until she begins hearing a voice. In Frozen Two, Anna is seen singing about change and while somethings never change, people with anxiety are constantly fearing a shift in their life, their relationships, or a change they are unprepared for. Right after this song Elsa begins hearing a voice. She tries her hardest to ignore it for fear it will change the relationship she is working to build with her sister, but the voice comes back louder. When she finally gives in to facing the voice, she is surprised as Anna’s concern leads her to join her on her journey to face her fears and learn more about the voice.
Many people with anxiety can feel so isolated from those they love as they often internalize their thoughts and feelings. Those that love you can provide that reassurance and be there for them if you let them. You are not alone. As much as Elsa felt alone, her sister was always there for her and believed that all Elsa’s intentions were good and pure. While at the end of the first movie she seemed so accepted, anxiety will always look for a way to make you doubt yourself but in acknowledging or voicing it you can offer yourself tools to manage your anxiety and overcome the effects your anxiety can play on your daily life and relationships. Elsa and Anna show us that you are not alone.
A self-described geek, Maria Laquerre-Diego is a CEO and Owner who is committed to increasing access to mental health services and breaking down the stigma surrounding therapy services. As a therapist turned CEO, Maria has developed a unique perspective when it comes to mental health and the barriers surrounding mental health treatment. Influenced by her time at New Mexico State University in the Family and Consumer Science department, and University of New Hampshire’s Marriage and Family Therapy department, Maria has turned her dedication to giving back and supporting future generations of therapists. In addition to supporting mental health providers, Maria takes an active role in addressing the continued stigma of mental health services through the use of pop culture – everything from movies and television shows to superheroes and Disney characters. Maria has spoken about mental health at several local events, has served as an officer on professional boards and has provided training to clinicians all over the country while maintaining her and her family’s roots as Aggies! Outside of the office, Maria can be found spending time with her family and loved ones, exploring the world through travel, and creating cosplays for herself, her husband and their two little ones. Maria is always happy to talk about Star Wars, Marvel and mental health and can be contacted through her practice website www.anewhopetc.org